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India News

Is August 31 the deadline for Aadhaar-PAN linking? Yes, no and it’s complicated

indiatoday.intoday.in

SAURABH SINGH

Unless a finding is made that Aadhaar is constitutionally not valid, tax return filers will need to link their PAN with Aadhaar by August 31, 2017,” says a CBDT press release dated July 31, 2017. Although tax filers could file their returns – on or before August 5, 2017 – for the assessment year 2017-18 without linking their Aadhaar with PAN – quoting Adhaar or acknowledgement number for having applied for Aadhaar – the department of Income Tax notes, “income-tax returns filed will not be processed should tax filers fail to link Aadhaar and PAN on or before August 31, 2017.”

Update: On Wednesday the central government told Supreme Court that it is extending deadline to make Aadhaar mandatory for welfare services in India. The deadline was September 30 but now the government is extending it to December 31, which is also the deadline for people to link their bank accounts with Aadhaar. Although there is no clarity on whether the government has also changed the “deadline” for linking Aadhaar number with PAN card, there are reports that the “deadline” has been indeed moved to December 31. This is if there is indeed a deadline, which we are not sure of anymore after what the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told Lok Sabha.

Clearly, August 31, 2017 should seem like a deadline for Aadhaar-PAN linking with multiple reports suggesting that the deadline may not be extended further. The earlier set deadline for the same was July 31,2017 but because many people expressed their inability to link their Aadhaar and PAN due to some or the other discrepancy, the deadline was extended. The government of India, to recall, has also made it mandatory to link all banks accounts with Aadhaar on or before December 31, 2017.

While there’s still sometime before things start to get serious vis-a-vis banking, the Income Tax department directive means there’s only limited time for Aadhaar-PAN linking, and going by speculations that the deadline may not be increased this time, it becomes the tax filer’s responsibility to do the needful. Only, there’s a slight twist in the tale. Although the Income Tax department directive means all tax filers must link their Aadhaar and PAN so their returns are properly processed, the Ministry of Finance seems to be on a whole different tangent.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, on August 11, had informed the Lok Sabha that the government has not fixed any time-frame to complete the linking of Aadhaar with PAN. This was in response to a query put forward by Ram Charitra Nishad who had categorically asked whether there’s any fixed time-frame to complete the linking of Aadhaar with PAN, and if yes, he had asked for further details and the steps taken by the government in this regard.

“No Madam,” Jaitley said while replying to the query.

The question is, if the government of India itself hasn’t fixed any time-frame to complete the linking of Aadhaar with PAN, how come the Income Tax department – which in itself is a government entity – has one. How can the Income Tax department – which in itself is a government entity – literally force tax payers into linking their Aadhaar with PAN within a stipulated time-frame?

By linking the Aadhaar with PAN, the government of India intends to solve the issue of people having multiple PAN cards and filing tax returns with them. The government of India views the linking of PAN and Aadhaar as an “effective anti-evasion measure” to fight the menace of black money. But, at the cost of confusion and lack of transparency, it seems. Unless there’s more clarity and transparency in the way the government of India goes about handling the issue, there will be more confusion, chaos as well.

The Supreme Court of India only recently deemed privacy a fundamental right and in light of the same, many believe the verdict will have an implication on the Aadhar and PAN linking, in that it won’t be needed. The Supreme Court is yet to pass its final verdict on the issue.

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